Deneholme Wood and/or Allen Banks and Staward Gorge

The new bridge crossing Philipburn in Deneholme Wood

To get to woodland now in Allendale, the easiest and best thing to do is to traipse cheerfully down the birch tree colonnade in the Recreation Ground to the new entrance to Deneholme Wood. Enjoy the wooded view before navigating the kissing gate, and then amble carefully down the steep path to the new bridge. From here you can explore the woods to your left, moving along to intersect with the River Path.

Remember that five weeks ago we introduced a Saturday feature to this diary: free things to do with the family throughout the Allen Valleys. We began with the River Path, did a quick circumnavigation of Allen Mill to ponder the huge industrial workplace once there, travelled up to the Chimneys and marvelled at the extensive flue network, and then took a day trip to Allenheads to consider both the mines there, the sorting yards, and the nature walk that remains on up into the plantation with views of the reservoirs that powered the place. Today we conclude our feature with woodland walks, but which shall we choose? The lovely local walk through Deneholme Woods, which brings you back to the village again, or a little drive on to Allen Banks and Staward Gorge to explore what you can of the Moralee Tarn and the ancient woodland? It’s a good question, and it all depends on time, energetic capacity, and transport really.

Deneholme Wood was an Edwardian garden (ie, circa 1900-1910) developed around Deneholme, with entrancing features like a little wooden bridge. The new bridge, carefully built high up to withstand huge floods, is a contemporary rendering of that winsome vision. By contrast, Allen Banks and Staward Gorge were a creation of nature, certainly, but also of Susan Davidson, who developed an extensive network of paths and trails, some fifty years before Deneholme’s paths, from about 1850 onwards. Allen Banks includes some of the last remaining ancient woodland in Northumberland, and it’s a very special place.

Sadly for those who have wobbled across it, and for those who no longer can, the famous suspension bridge over the Allen was demolished by Storm Desmond in December, 2015. It had only recently been repaired, thanks to a variety of funders including our own North Pennines Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership.

The wobbly bridge at Allen Banks, newly restored, was demolished by Storm Desmond in December, 2015.

But there’s still a lot of woodland to experience at Allen Banks, so it’s worth a family visit to explore. Some extensive tree felling is happening this summer, according to the National Trust’s website, so some areas may need to be detoured around, as plantation trees (planted during the Second World War effort) are replaced with indigenous species. Just watch for the signs and be aware.

Whether you embark on a cheerful family walk close to hand, in our own Allendale woodland with its fairy glen, babbling brook, and mature trees, leading on to the River Path, or whether you venture further afield to the boundaries of this patch at Plankey Mill, Allen Banks and Staward Gorge, your time walking through the woodlands of this Allen Valley will be repaid over and over by the family’s delight.


  1. Larry you forgot to mention the beech circle In Deneholme wood and its association with Charles Wesley, the 1902 ‘well’ at the top of the new steps and the bathing pools supposedly blasted out of the stream bed with explosives from the mines. There is also a new viewing platform, or rather a refurbished viewing platform on the Deneholme house side that once gave a vista back down the burn gorge to the church, before the trees grew so high as to obliterate it

  2. Umm, I didn’t forget the beech circle, only I do believe that’s apocryphal . . . the age of the beech trees is much younger than the time of Wesley the evangelist, so I’ve been told. A nice story though, and worth a thought. The bathing pools are more on the Deneholme house side which is not really meant to be public access, especially when there are residents at Deneholme, which is why I suggested a left turn after the new bridge, coming down from the Recreation Ground. I haven’t seen the refurbished viewing platform on that side, but the nice one on the park side was designed for wheelchair access and a view over the fairy glen.

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